Read along with me as I share with you my report on being witness to the greatest migration of animal life on Earth.
In the summer of 2012 I was able to see beneath the ocean surface and every before dark and before dawn I saw a world of wonder.
My Ocean Pastures Corp (Haida (Hi Da) Salmon Restoration) project is nearing completion of its ship borne work and the team of sailors, scientists, and fishers are now heading home. This summer my crew has been with me aboard ship engaging in what is surely the most substantial ocean restoration project in history. Indeed perhaps the largest active ocean science experiment in all the world.
In a large ocean eddy west of Haida Gwaii that we carefully surveyed before, during, and after we have replenished vital ocean mineral micro-nutrients, with the expectation and hope it would restore more than ten thousand square kilometers of ocean pasture to health.
We watched in awe as it did just that, feeding and sustaining the nightly migration of zooplankton, the largest migration on earth. Along with the abundance of plankton came vast herds of great whales so numerous at times we could not count them individually, seabirds by the thousands perhaps tens of thousands, all manner of ocean fish, formations of squid large and small, and hopefully the baby salmon that we knew were swimming into this big blue sea, their ocean pasture nursery to begin their ocean lives. If we have done our job right instead of mostly starving those baby salmon are being treated to a feast.
Indeed this has occurred and the waters I choose to do this in those of the Haida eddy have turned from clear blue desert sparse of life into a verdant emerald sea lush with the growth of hundreds of million tonnes of plankton and the entire food chain it supports. The growth of those vast tonnes of plankton derives from vastly larger amounts of CO2 now diverted from becoming deadly ocean acid and instead repurposed to become ocean life itself.
For weeks the men and women, on my team toiled in stormy overcast weather and fog without a hint of blue sky. At times the storms were so severe, blowing at over 100 knots of wind speed, category 3 hurricane force, but we persevere and did our work to restore and revive that vital ocean pasture. In mid-August the skies cleared and revealed the wonder of the mission on which they have laboured.
Satellites focused on ocean health that monitor and measure plankton blooms sent back stunning images. Far offshore in these NE Pacific salmon pastures a vast plankton bloom is revealed matching the health and vibrancy of blooms seen in rich coastal waters. The return of such blooms is “the stuff dreams are made of” for all ocean life.
In addition to the focused study the accomplished mission of the project also included detailed oceanographic studies of the near-by Bowie Sea-Mount Marine Protected area, the near shore and famous Haida Eddy, and the coastal ocean from Vancouver north to the study region.
The greatest migration on Earth.
Each day and night the sonars and other instruments reveal a rapid change in the bloom. As the phytoplankton bloom grows tiny zooplankton that graze upon those ocean plants respond both in number and behaviour.
During daylight hours the zooplankton are 300+ meters down resting on the “deep thermocline” layer. As daylight wanes each evening their nightly migration to the surface pastures begins. There they engorge themselves with the blooms “fresh greens.” By morning light they swim back to the dark depths and safety where like bucolic cows they rest and digest.
The team is here to watch, measure, and captures samples of this ‘greatest migration’ on Earth. Russ George the chief scientist describes the spectacle, “It is as if we are perched in a tree on the great plains of Africa privileged to witness the great herds of beasts as they run past. Here there are animals of every size and shape albeit in mostly miniature planktonic forms. We see the salps, jellies, copepods, amphipods, krill, and more.” Mysteriously rare and missing are the pteropods but that’s another story.
Sea life from near and far are drawn to an ocean oasis.
That this wondrous plankton growth is beneficial is perfectly clear as is seen in the immediate shift from scarcity to abundance in sea life of all kinds. Spouting plumes of misty breath from the great whales, Fins, Seis, Sperms, and Orcas reveal the most obvious herds attracted to and now thriving on this renewed pasture. Two months ago, before the bloom, whale sightings were so few that not more than five or six were seen during weeks at sea. Now every day shows at least that many, some days whales are counted by the score.
Do or Do Naught
Ocean Pastures that sustain the greatest migration on earth have been turning into ever bluer ‘blue deserts’ for decades. Each year 1% of the plant-life of the oceans is lost due to our neglect of these vital pastures. To put that in context in every five year span of time the oceans lose the equivalent plant life to the entire Amazon Rainforest. We are all concerned about the fate of the Amazon which has lost 20% of its plant life. But since the 1950’s when records clearly show the loss of ocean pasture plant life at 1% per year we’ve lost 10 entire Amazon Rainforest’s of our vital ocean plant life. We can and must restore the ocean pastures! Join me.